MONTREAL- A diverse and multicultural crowd took to the streets of Montreal Sunday to protest the Parti Quebecois' proposed Charter of Values.
Nearly 1,000 people assembled at Festival Plaza and marched through the streets to Jeanne-Mance Park, which rests at the base of Mount Royal, Montreal's iconic cross-adorned mountain.
The assembled crowd included many families with small children. They chanted "no to the charter" and held up signs to voice their displeasure.
Abdul Al, who came to Canada from Iraq 35 years ago, felt it was important to attend and have his voice heard. "This (charter) is selfish," Al said. "Where are the human rights that I left my country for? I feel sorry for a bright country like Canada."
The demonstration was organized by a non-partisan group of young professionals who believe that the rule of law already guarantees a secular state and gender equality.
Benjamin Prud'homme, 24, a lawyer who helped organize the event, said that they staged Sunday's protest to show that there is "a diversified Quebec that shares common values of respect, freedom and equality."
This was the second major anti-charter rally held in Montreal in the last two weeks. The first one was held on the same day as the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a non-partisan Canadian organization, encouraged members of Montreal's Jewish community to take part in large numbers.
Liberal MP Marc Garneau, who attended the rally, believes that "the people who are here are defending their Quebec and Canada, which is an inclusive Quebec and Canada. And we have to speak up."
Philosopher Charles Taylor, who in 2007 co-chaired a provincial commission on cultural differences in Quebec, said he is "glad we're having this debate, but we've got to win it. If we don't win it, we don't have the kind of society that's worth handing down to our kids."
Taylor believes that "our society is organized around rights for everybody. We can't let that go for one minute without regretting it for the rest of our lives and the rest of our history."
The Parti Quebecois unveiled their Quebec Charter of Values last month. It proposes a ban on religious signs and symbols such as hijabs, turbans, large crosses and kippahs in the public sector.
A third anti-charter protest has been organized for next Sunday afternoon in Montreal.